If eating Israeli food at Tahina isn’t on your New Year bucket list, it should be. Juliana Mare filled up on the menu faves and has the scoop on the best street-style dishes.
I’m just going to throw it out there that I don’t know much about Israeli food. But I owe a lot to this cuisine because my favourite breakfast food – baked eggs – has its roots in shakshuka, which is one of the most popular ethnic dishes from the Middle East.
While Melbourne boasts restaurants with cuisines from across the world, there’s only one that I know of, which serves Israeli food. But one is literally all you need because after eating at Tahina in Northcote, you won’t find any better outsides the streets of Israel itself.
I’ll start with the eggs, which are the most popular dishes that Tahina offer. There are three flavour varieties available but being the stickler for tradition that I am, I went for the Red plate and the vegan option (substituting eggs for eggplant).
Eggplant with traditional tomato base with mixed herbs. Plus a side dish with Israeli salads, spicy green salad, pickled cabbage, hummus, tahini and pita bread.
They’ve hit the nail on the head with the Red sauce, it’s full of flavour, hearty and well seasoned but not overly spicy. The eggplant is thinly sliced and soft but there really was a scarce portion, which is my only criticism of the entire meal.
Six thin slices for the entire dish doesn’t really compare to the two free-range eggs that the non-vegan option comes with.
The salads are an excellent side dish, of which you get plenty of. The pickled cabbage is fresh and tangy, perfect to cut through the richness of the shakshuka. But my favourite is the spicy green salad, which is made mostly of thin slices of cucumber that will clear your sinuses for sure!
And as if all of this wasn’t enough, a serve of shakshuka also comes with hummus, tahini and pita bread. I could happily eat this pita bread every day for the rest of my life. Unbelievably soft and fluffy, it’s the most perfect sponge to mop up the shakshuka sauce.
For this visit to Tahina, we also ordered the Cauliflower Papiot (slow roasted baby cauliflower with hummus, lemon and tahini) and Roasted Eggplant (hummus, half a roasted eggplant, zaatar kale chips and tahini).
The cauliflower was without doubt, the best I’ve ever eaten. As one of my favourite vegetables, I’ve cooked cauliflower a million times but I’ve never even come close to making it taste as fantastic as Tahina.
There was so much flavour and not just from the seasoning and hummus – the cauliflower itself was soft and so well infused with the spices and lemon. I almost wish I’d skipped the shakshuka and just ordered cauliflower because it was a real show-stopper!
The eggplant was also extremely well cooked, soft all the way through and seasoned with the traditional flavours that flow throughout Tahina’s entire menu, it was good – but just good. Unfortunately though, when you’ve got incredible shakshuka and a mind-blowing cauliflower dish, ‘good’ somewhat pales in comparison.
Even though Northcote isn’t a close suburb, it’s well worth the drive to eat at Tahina. It’s a small restaurant with a few tables and benches inside so I’ve only ever been served at the small coffee tables outside so do plan your visit on a warm evening. (They don’t take bookings either, so be flexible!)
But Tahina definitely won’t be beaten for flavour or value. Traditional Israeli street foods are given a modern edge without compromising on flavour. And they still manage to make the dishes look pretty, which is just a bonus.